EXCLUSIVE: 88 staff members physically assaulted at Tullamore Hospital since 2015
Doctors and nurses are among the 88 staff who have been physically assaulted at the Tullamore hospital over the last three years.
In figures obtained by the Offaly Express through a Freedom of Information request, it has been revealed that nurses receive more physical and verbal abuse than any other individual staff sector at the Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore. The figures relate to the years 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The hospital is closely linked to the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise. Both hospitals are part of the HSE's Dublin Midland Hospital Group which includes Naas, Tallaght and St James' hospitals.
Over the last three years, 36 nurses have reported internally that they have been physically assaulted by staff or visitors at Tullamore hospital, while a further 56 reported being verbally abused while at work.
Just over 40% of instances of physical assault reported by members of staff at Tullamore Hospital were reported by nursing staff. Of the 81 instances of verbal abuse recorded since the beginning of 2015, just under 70% were inflicted on nurses.
Hospital attendants were also high on the list with 29 cases of physical assault reported over the three-year period.
An average of 29 physical assaults are reported by staff members every year at Tullamore Hospital, which works out at one every two weeks. At least 27 cases of verbal assault are recorded every year at Tullamore.
The figures also reveal that instances of physical abuse being carried out on staff members by patients and visitors is on the rise. It jumped from 22 in 2015 to 28 in 2016 and 38 in 2017. Once again, assaults on nurses are increasing most sharply, jumping from 8 cases in 2016 to 18 in 2017.
In its policy document on work-related violence and aggression, the HSE states, "Ensuring the safety of employees and service users is a priority concern for the HSE."
"The HSE is committed to creating a safe environment within which to work or to be treated. The HSE does not tolerate verbal or physical harassment in any form by employees, service users, members of the public or others," it says.
The provision of this policy comes under a series of legislative documents, including the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 while instances of extreme physical abuse can and are sometimes dealt with by gardaí.
In the same policy document on work-related violence, the HSE sets out standards for managing the risk associated with such behaviour.
"Managers must know and exercise their responsibilities in relation to preventing and managing aggression and violence within the workplace by ensuring appropriate risk management processes are in place; ensuring that staffing levels are adequate to meet the demands of the service being provided; ensuring that there is adequate cover for night, weekend and shift changeovers; and ensuring that employees receive appropriate supervision," said the policy.
These staffing levels have long been criticised by the likes of the INMO who recently said the overcrowding issue at Ireland's hospitals was "simply out of control.
"Hospitals cannot cope, the system is unable to manage patient flow and the burden is falling on nursing and medical staff who are forced to work in intolerable conditions," they said back in April.
"There must be an immediate focus on realistic recruitment and retention measures for nursing staff to prevent this situation continuing to deteriorate,” INMO General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said of the A&E overcrowding issue and staffing levels.
The HSE sets out that all incidents of physical and verbal abuse should be formally recorded according to its Incident Management Policy and Procedure, and the figures revealed here account for those instances reported only.
It does not factor in the numbers of physical and verbal assaults that went unreported by the affected staff members over the last three years.